Navigating this blog!

October 25, 2010

By default, the posts on this blog are arranged in reverse chronological order. To read posts in chronological order, use the calendar to the right to navigate to the next entry: click on the next blue date following that of the current post. You can select a month (May, June, July, October) by using the previous-month and next-month links at the bottom of the calendar.

In order to help you find the various portions of our trip, here are some links to the posts which begin each section:

The beginning of our trip in Logan Airport

The start of our time on the road, heading east toward Verdun and Strasbourg.


Wrapping Up: Italy

October 25, 2010

This is, for the moment, just a beginning of the post I’ll write about the final, Italian portion of our trip. There are many things to show you, so this will be a very long post!


We left La Pyramide after lunch and wanted to get as close to Lago Maggiore as we could before stopping for the night. The trip through the very long Frejus tunnel was uneventful (beyond the enormous toll of 40 euros) and we were well into the no-man’s-land between Turino and the Lake by nightfall. We failed to find a decent hotel (and we’re not fussy!) in the only large town nearby and so had to proceed onward to the next exit 30 km farther down the autostrade. We got off and made our way to the small city of Borgomanero and tried to find a hotel there. After a half-hour and a gelato, we still hadn’t found any hotel in the city center; an inquiry pointed us toward the other side of town where, on the edge of town, sat what I’m certain was the only operating hotel in the city. In the morning, we discovered that we were half of the guest population! Definitely not a tourist destination!

We found a wonderful local restaurant where we ate dinner and lunch the next day (12 euros inclusive). Here’s the fusilli pomodoro on the lunch menu:

On the afternoon of our second day in Borgomanero, we headed out to Lake Maggiore. Very much a tourist trap! We found a just-barely-reasonably-priced hotel, moved in, took this picture out the window and then discovered that their wi-fi was “not working just now.”

We moved out immediately!


As we headed from Lago Maggiore (we left about 4:30p having had no luck finding a reasonably priced place to stay — or, for that matter, any reason to stay) toward Lucca and the villa, it wasn’t clear just how far we could get before we’d have to stop. Although we could have made it to the villa by midnight, we were several days earlier than expected, so there would be no assurance that we would find the gate unlocked. So we did the very best thing under the circumstances and aimed for Recco, our favorite eating spot on the Ligurian coast, ten minutes south of Genoa. We got there at 8:30p and discovered that our favorite restaurant was closed for its weekly holiday. So we looked around and settled on staying at da Vittorio, more restaurant than hotel but Recco is not a hotel destination.

After unpacking, we went down to dinner and were happily surprised by the quality of the food. First, the town’s specialty: Formaggio col Formaggio a two-crusted sort of pizza with a local fresh cheese between layers of soft and flaky pastry:

Here’s what it looks like when served:

Then one of our favorites when in Italy, the fresh mushroom salad with shaved parmagiano, lemon juice and black pepper:

And two more favorites which we always eat when in Recco: the fresh pasta handkerchiefs with pesto:

and the pansotti, a local filled pasta with chard:


The great advantage of staying overnight in Recco (which we’d never done) is that the next day you can go to your favorite restaurant in town, now open after its holiday. At Trattoria Vitturin, we had “the usual” (which we never tire of): the amuse bouche of fried dough crisps with herbs:

The fresh mushroom salad with parmiggiano shavings:

The malfatti pasta with pesto garnished with the traditional green beans:

An finally, the pansotti with walnut sauce:


We had our last two weeks at the villa where we went to our favorite restaurants, relaxed, and, in the end, did some work (I made great progress on a new project to program a system for course websites for HILR). ¬†Here’s the main room of the villa just before dinner:

The table in the garden set for lunch:

Working the kitchen preparing some melone for proscuitto — catch that very ancient stone sink, still in use!

Our first homemade panzanella (not quite as good as Maria-Grazia’s):

And, last but not least, our favorite lardo and salame toscano (both hard to find at a high level of quality):


Can’t let you go without showing you our favorites at the local trattoria, hidden in the middle of nowhere (the long-haul truckers have no trouble finding it!). ¬†First, the linguine alle vongole:

and the pizza mascarpone, speck, and rucola:


Just to close the loop, here’s our baggage (90 days worth of clothing and three pounds of Italian lavender soap) coming home from the airport on the T:

Wrapping up: France

October 25, 2010

When we last checked in, we were in Barcelona having just lost 100s of euros to the very talented pickpocket who rightly sized us up as easy marks.

Rather understandably, we packed up and left town ASAP! Our next stop was the celebrated French sea-side town of Collioure, the site of many impressionist pictures:

We then zipped up to Albi with its great cathedral:

and a haut cuisine restaurant with a most picturesque seared foie gras with bacon entree:

Leaving town, we had lunch in a deserted field which made Deb very nervous (what if the farmer came?); and then the farmer did come, driving by on his tractor pulling a load of hay bales; and waved to us!

We detoured to look at the brand-new Millau autoroute bridge, the world’s longest:

You probably don’t want to see another picture of beef tartare but this was an especially nice one!

Then, on again to visit Dani and Rosine in Albon in the middle of the Ardeche (literally, the middle of nowhere — no wi-fi, no cell phone signal; just peace and quiet. Here we are about to sit down to dinner:

And shopping in the weekly market (all the cheeses were local, local, local!):

On the last day, Jeanne (Dani’s oldest) arrived with her four children (two missing!), with Leslie on the left:

The very last thing we did in France was to stop at La Pyramide in Vienne (one of the oldest of the three-star restaurants in France) to eat in the garden of the lower-priced bistro — nice meal!

See you when we get to Italy (in about four hours)!